By Bracha Goetz , MA
Many Jewish sources highlight the importance of helping others, but one has resonated through the ages, perhaps more than any other:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?” (Hillel in Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14)
Whether our children are still babies or already teens, we can demonstrate the deep joy and lasting fulfillment that comes from volunteering which involves doing chesed (acts of kindness) and Tikkun Olam (repairing our world).
Doing good deeds for others is actually a boredom buster that always works. Even on a cold, rainy day, every child can become genuinely excited about looking for their own opportunities to do good deeds. Very young children can make colorful and cheery cards to send to relatives who would be thrilled to receive them. They can make phone calls to elderly people they know, or to children who are sick. Cleaning sticky walls (from somebody’s little fingerprints) with sudsy water is another possibility – with many variations on this theme available. So is practicing a medley of songs and/or a skit about an upcoming Jewish holiday that can be performed in a local nursing home or assisted living facility.
The joy that comes from giving is incomparable, and this deep and amazing concept can be readily absorbed by children when presented in a simple and delightful way. It is also a transformative message that can genuinely revitalize our homes.
In my job as Coordinator for Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program at JCS, I’ve seen firsthand that what children get from volunteering can stay with them for a lifetime. I’ve encountered many people who, during the screening process to become a Big Brother/Sister, tell me they learned the joy of reaching out to others during their own childhood or teen years. And now, as adults, they want to continue.
Jewish Community Services offers opportunities for children to give back with the help of their parents. The JCS toy closet collects donations of new toys, games, crafts, store gift cards and school supplies throughout the year. These items are used to help local families who are affected by financial hardship and are receiving help from JCS.
The Special Connections program at JCS allows families to schedule regular visits with adults in our community who have special needs. They can share fun activities like bowling, board games, movies or just going out for pizza. It’s a great volunteer experience for the whole family.
Our sister agency, Jewish Volunteer Connection, has started a program to excite kids about community service from an early age. JVC is helping parents incorporate a volunteer project into a child’s birthday party. So instead of just giving a gift to the birthday boy or girl, each child at the party gets a different sort of gift – the great feeling of helping others.
Volunteering involves reaching beyond ourselves, and, in turn, it expands our lives in so many ways. Including our offspring in volunteer efforts helps both us and our children realize that we are part of something bigger. Little sticky fingerprints can wash off easily, but the imprint made from giving lasts a lifetime and beyond.
By Bracha Goetz, MA, JCS Volunteer Coordinator, Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Program
For more information on volunteering for the JCS Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters program, please contact Mrs. Katie Cohen at 410-843-7462 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jcsbaltimore.org/volunteer.
For more information on the Jewish Volunteer Connection’s party-related interactive service projects contact www.jvcbaltimore.org (410) 843-7490.
Questions about parenting? Send an email to email@example.com. For more information on parenting click here or call 410-466-9200.